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The problems with infamous ’20 metre rule’ under the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the stark implications it has for people with rheumatoid arthritis and disabled people across the UK.

I say to those watching today and who are genuinely sick, disabled or are retired. You have nothing to fear.”

These were the words used by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, at Conservative Party Conference in 2010. Fast-forward three years and we can safely say that this pledge has not stood the test of time.

In a move that shocked just about everyone in the sector the Department of Work and Pension (DWP) announced that to qualify for the higher rate of mobility under the new PIP assessment, a person would need to prove they can’t walk 20 metres instead of 50 metres  (the distance used under the Disability Living Allowance). To put the 20 metres distance in a bit of context, it translates to roughly the same length as two buses or less than a single tennis court. In fact, when in full flow, 100m legend Usain Bolt could cover it in approximately 1.6 seconds.

The problem? This one change in the law will instantly wipe 428,000 people off the higher rate of the benefit according to the Government’s own projections.

Rheumatoid Arthritis  is a chronic, progressive and disabling auto-immune disease, affecting over 690,000 adults in the UK. It is a painful condition, can cause severe disability and ultimately affects a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. The disease causes swelling and damaging cartilage and bone around the joints, commonly the hands, feet and wrists, making mobility extremely problematic. People with Rheumatoid Arthritis often use their mobility payments to secure a Motability vehicle which can get them to hospital appointments and work or for any of the many other higher costs associated with their disability. But owing to the changes now implemented under the new PIP assessment, many find their payments in jeopardy.

So what has changed? Is it just the case that 20 metres represents a fairer test of how far somebody needs to walk in order to engage independently with society? Not in the view of National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) or the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), and we’re not alone. Almost 11,000 people and 80 organisations signed a letter written by the DBC to David Cameron and Nick Clegg urging the Government to reinstate the 50 metre distance.

There has been no comprehensive assessment of what impact this will have on disabled people by the DWP, but from the work of National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and the DBC, it is clear that the loss of money or easy access to a vehicle (from losing a Motability vehicle) will lead to unemployment, isolation and depression.

Following concerted pressure from all those affected, including a judicial review of the decision, the DWP did decide to consult on the issue and we now await the verdict with baited breath.

Ultimately it comes down to a choice. Do you want to live in a society that accepts that disabled people need our help to live as full and independent lives as possible or do you want to live in a society that sees these people as a burden, that should be able to get by on less?

We know how we feel at NRAS… we hope you agree.

Leo Watson, Government Affairs Officer at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS)


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 at 10:55 and is filed under MSDs, PIP, Policy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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